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HIV-Positive Muppet Added in S.Africa

July 12, 2002

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ The first HIV-positive Muppet will soon join the cast of ``Sesame Street″ in South Africa to educate children about the deadly virus that infects more than 10 percent of the country.

The female character, whose color, name and personality traits are still on the drawing board, will be introduced on ``Takalani Sesame″ in September.

The Muppet will associate freely with the show’s other characters as a way to fight stereotypes and dispel myths about people living with the virus, said Yvonne Kgame of the South African Broadcasting Corp., which airs the program.

``We want to build hope and address the issues of stereotypes against HIV,″ Kgame said. ``It’s about instilling positive attitudes toward people HIV infected.″

Story lines for the character were in development, but the show would confront serious issues about HIV in a way that is appropriate for its viewing audience of young children.

``It will have, in a childlike manner, open discussions about sexuality, HIV and AIDS, and death and dying,″ Kgame said. ``The reality is that children as young as they are affected very closely by HIV/AIDS. They experience death and dying of people very close to them.″

With more than 4.7 million people living with HIV, South Africa has the world’s largest population infected with the virus. Despite this, there is a crushing stigma surrounding the virus in the country.

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